Fire Extinguishers: What You Need to Know

Fire Extinguishers: What You Need to Know

June 25, 2020

When it comes to fire safety we know that sprinklers, fire exits, fire alarms, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are all tools that, when used correctly, will save lives.

It’s unlikely your home will include a fire sprinkler system but rather will include the use of fire extinguishers.

But what type of extinguisher do you need? 

Is one extinguisher enough? 

Where should it be kept? 

How is it used?

Experts say that fire extinguishers should be found on each level of your home. In the kitchen (away from the stove), basement, garage and bedroom level.  But don’t forget your cottage or RV and of course, on a campsite.

It is also recommended one be kept in your car as we are often on the road away from these types of resources.

Make sure all members of your household know where to find the extinguishers, how to use them, and be sure they are easy to reach while remaining close to your fire exit.

Just like we check the batteries in our fire/smoke alarm it is important to also check the pressure gauge, every month, of an extinguisher.  Keep in mind the extinguisher will not maintain pressure once it has been used, which means it needs to be refilled as soon as possible after every use.  

 There are five main types of fire:

  1. Class A – includes solid material such as wood, paper, cloth, regular trash.
  2. Class B – includes flammable liquids such as gas, oils, propane, diesel or paints.
  3. Class C – includes any type of fire that involves electrical equipment
  4. Class D – includes combustible metals and/or metal alloys 
  5. Class K – includes cooking materials such as grease, cooking oils and animal/vegetable fat

Three main types of portable fire extinguishers include water extinguishers, carbon dioxide extinguishers and dry chemical extinguishers.

Water extinguishers: Water extinguishers are filled about two-thirds with water and then pressurized with air. When used for Class A fires, these extinguishers remove the heat from the burning materials.  These are NOT to be used for an electrical fire, flammable liquid or cooking oil fire.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extinguishers: These extinguishers are pressurized with CO2 and used for Class B and C fires. By blanketing the fire, the carbon dioxide stops the reaction. Its important to not use CO2 extinguishers in confined spaces as it can make breathing difficult by displacing the oxygen in the air.  If you must use in a confined space ensure workers have appropriate breathing protection.

It’s important to remember NOT to use these type of extinguishers for Class A fires because the fire may continue to smolder and even re-ignite after the CO2 has dispersed.

Dry Chemical extinguishers: Dry chemical extinguishers are the most common.  These will be marked for the classes they are designed to extinguish (e.g., ABC type extinguisher will put out Class A, B and C fires). Dry chemical extinguishers discharge a blanket of fine powder which creates a break between the fuel and the oxygen in the air or the chemical reaction. Watch out for the residue left from using these extinguishers as it can damage electrical equipment or computers.

Online Training: Basic Fire Safety and Certification

We cover fire extinguishers in detail and much more in our online training and certification program called Basic Fire Safety. Click the image below to learn more.